The dense wet heat that hung over the face of land, like a blanket, prevented all hope of sleep in the first instance. The cicalas helped the heat, and the yelling jackals the cicalas. It was impossible to sit still in the dark, empty, echoing house and watch the punkah beat the dead air. So, at ten o’clock of the night, I set my walking-stick on end in the middle of the garden, and waited to see how it would fall. It pointed directly down the moonlit road that leads to the City of Dreadful Night.
So we are off, caught at once on a voyage of exploration, escaping the ‘empty, echoing house’ and the punkah that ‘beat’ – wonderfully exact word – ‘the dead air’.
Kipling was our greatest short-story writer, author of one marvellous novel, and a fine poet, but he was first of all a reporter, and this piece, written for Lahore’s Civil and Military Gazette when he was still only a boy of twenty, is characteristic. From the first he